Chris is excited to be leading Fernham Homes, a Kent-based SME housebuilder, towards achieving its five year business plan to build 150-200 homes each year.
1. How did you first become involved in the residential development industry and what were you doing prior to that?
I entered the housebuilding industry almost by a stroke of luck. Having joined the Police Service at 18, policing in the middle of a recession wasn’t all I had thought of since a young boy, and 35 years of having those thoughts hanging over me wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Policing is a very difficult job, particularly in today’s society, and I still keep in contact with many former colleagues and continue to take my hat off to them. With three years of policing experience, having learnt some great transferable skills, I realised just how hard it was to leave the Police Service and set off to find a new job. During my time with the Police Service my (now) wife and I wanted to find a plot of land to build our own home, and whilst that took several years to eventually identify, I was fortunate enough to acquire and develop a small number of sites with my dad around shift working commitments. Fast forward a year of working in jobs that were only jobs, I stumbled across a role with Barratt David Wilson as a sponsored ad on a job searching site. Reading the job description for the Land Buyer role, I realised I could do what I was once doing as a hobby and forge it into a career. Needless to say I immediately applied and managed to start a few weeks later (they can’t have had any other applicants)!
2. You joined Fernham Homes as development director during the first lockdown in 2020. How did you find starting a new position in such a difficult period?
We are a small team and have ambitious growth plans, so we remained working in the office throughout lockdown. So, unlike many people who changed roles during lockdown, I was able to meet my colleagues in person. Reflecting on my time since joining Fernham Homes, we’ve been so busy alongside the day job; launching our exciting new range of floor-plans, standardising our specification with distinguishing factors to ensure our construction partners can support the delivery of our growth plans, establishing new supplier relationships for key procurement items and investing in a significant amount of land.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
Is there such thing? No day is ever the same. I think everyone in our industry will say the same and that is why I love my job. My colleagues would probably tell you I often spend much of the day in meetings or on the phone!
4. Do you think that there have been any permanent changes to your typical day as we move towards normality once again?
I hope to see that we all continue to enjoy a healthy life balance that lockdown provided. I very much encourage my team to ensure that they get the right balance and ensure they can spend time with their families for important key events and leave the office to get home.
5. Have you got any interesting/amusing work anecdotes?
I have quite a few interesting or amusing work stories but I do not think they suit a Birketts publication… If anyone reading sees me at future networking events, I’d be delighted to share them in person over a beer!
6. Do you think there will be any changes to the housing product that you now deliver as a result of the pandemic?
We think so, we are certainly looking towards a more flexible product to suit the changing markets. As we assess and plan sites we are very much more focused on two things; outdoor space, giving great quality public spaces for residents to enjoy whilst ensuring that they have a good standard of private amenity space too, and, flexibility within our layouts to ensure pop-up home working as well as dedicated spaces can be provided throughout the home.
7. Are there any key differences between the Essex and Kent housing markets?
I find the housing markets pretty consistent. Historically, Essex generally benefited from better road/rail connectivity to London than large parts of Kent but that is improving and in a post-COVID world, the ease of commute does not seem to be top of the buyer’s checklist.
This article is from the first issue of Foundations, our newsletter for those working in the housebuilding industry. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Adele Dean or another member of Birketts' Housebuilders Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at September 2021.